Lamborghini Gallardo LP 560-4

To maximize the excitement of driving the Lamborghini Gallardo LP 560-4, follow these simple steps: Press the button that engages the Corsa (racing) mode; disable the traction and stability controls; remove your foot from the brake; and then stomp on the gas pedal. Initiating this launch function, however, is by no means essential to the enjoyment of piloting this grown-up baby bull.

Compared with the original Gallardo, the LP 560-4 is 44 pounds lighter, accelerates faster on its way to a top speed of more than 200 mph, shifts more quickly, and steers more accurately. The car also brakes harder when equipped with optional carbon-ceramic brakes. But like the old Gallardo, the LP 560-4 is remarkably easy to drive.

Visually, the new Gallardo distinguishes itself only subtly, with larger air intakes, a slightly redesigned front fascia, and a revised rump. The “LP” in the name proclaims the vehicle’s longitudinal, posterior-mounted 5.2-?liter direct-injection engine, which has 10 cylinders and produces 552 hp and nearly 400 ft lbs of torque. (The 560 in the name denotes the European horsepower rating, and the 4 refers to the car’s permanent four-wheel-drive system.)

The Gallardo LP 560-4 is quicker than the Ferrari F430 and nearly as quick as Lamborghini’s bigger, heavier, V-12-powered Murciélago. The 6-speed automated manual transmission (a traditional manual transmission is also available) shifts with startling speed, and in Corsa mode it engages with a satisfying thump.

The basic LP 560-4 coupe costs about $200,000; an updated roadster version became available in April, at a price of $221,000.

Lamborghini, www.lamborghini.com